Has $1 an hour wage boost; several first-in-nation new benefits
By ED FINKELSTEIN
Members of United Food & Commercial Workers Local 655 ratified what President David Cook called a “historic contract” with Schnucks by a 56 percent margin in a mass contract meeting May 18 at the St. Charles Family Arena. The new three-year pact went into effect on Monday, May 23. It covers more than 4,600 members.
After a thorough item-by-item review of the proposed agreement by Director of Collective Bargaining Robert Pence, and an extended opportunity for members to voice their issues about specifics, a secret-ballot vote monitored by union members and staff resulted in the passage of the new pact. The previous three-year contract expired May 8.
“This is arguably the best contract in our history,” Cook said, adding that it was the best agreement he’s been able to negotiate in his 35 years with Local 655. “Many of these men and women worked through a pandemic, and not only are they receiving substantial pay increases, but we’ve also been able to improve their healthcare benefits without raising costs to workers by a single penny.”
Prior to the start of negotiations, Local 655 conducted extensive on-line polling to determine members’ top three preferences. “The results were clear,” Cook said at the meeting: “Wages, wages, wages.”
“We are pleased that our UFCW Local 655 teammates voted to approve our latest contract proposal,” said David Bell, Schnucks chief financial officer. “Over the last two years, our communities have come to know what we have known for many years – that our Schnucks teammates serve an important role taking care of our customers. This was top of mind for us as we worked with Local 655 on this new package that received the unanimous approval of their bargaining committee and union leadership.”
After the meeting, Cook complimented the company’s good-faith bargaining efforts. “We don’t always see eye to eye but we understand that the best outcome is one that provides good jobs for our partners while also allowing Schnucks to be competitive against non-union employers.”
He thanked the union’s rank-and-file bargaining committee for their determined efforts in helping in the successful negotiations. They included: Diane Hemphill, Prudence Laferny, David Krzyzanoski, and Mike Koeller from Schnucks and Laura Huang and Tim Humphrey from Dierbergs.
He also complimented the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services who were part of the bargaining efforts when they began last February. “FMCS played a really important role and they were critical in this process.”
OTHER FOOD CHAINS
The agreement will set the precedent with contracts covering over 1,600 Local 655 members with Dierbergs and Straubs. Negotiations with Dierbergs have been completed and a vote is tentatively set for June 8.
Participating in the talks were representatives of Meat, Deli & Seafood Local 88 and UFCW Local 881 which represents Schnucks throughout S. Illinois.
Local 655 is the largest private-sector local union in Missouri representing more than 8,500 members in the central and eastern portions of the state, primarily in the grocery industry, as well as in food processing, food service, and manufacturing.
UFCW 655 contract highlights
Highlights of the new UFCW Local 655 contract with Schnucks that have been characterized as the best agreement yet to be negotiated anywhere in the nation, include a number of groundbreaking benefits:
• Unprecedented new contract language, the first of its kind in the nation, allowing workers to write their own schedules and work at the stores of their choosing. It’s designed to new job opportunities for all members. Schnucks is developing a new on-line portal to manage this innovative effort.
• Creation of a new worker category – a Part-Time Flex workforce – to help members gain extra hours as well as bring in new part-time workers.
• The largest wage increases in Local 655 history – $1 an hour each of three years – in addition to guaranteed hours-based raises.
• New premium pay for overnight workers and those serving in leadership roles in their store.
• Expansion of health & welfare benefits at no additional cost to the employees.
• Preservation of pension benefits at no additional cost to Schnucks.
• Up to two weeks of vacation payout at the end of the calendar year.
• A dual increase in the guarantee of full-time jobs: from 45 percent of all hours to be full-time to 50 percent and the addition of 30 new guaranteed full-time jobs a year, over and above the new hours ratio for full-time jobs.